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Dave Reardon

Afternoon QB

By Dave Reardon

Saturday, February 24, 2001

Hawaii’s hero
gets a second
chance at life

JUNE Jones has left his imprint in every city in which he has played or coached football.

And, it seems, some where he hasn't.

For two days in a row now, we've provided live updates to a Tampa radio station on the condition of Jones since his life-threatening car crash Thursday.

Jones' work experience is extensive, but the closest it comes geographically to the Florida city is his stint with the Atlanta Falcons, which ended five years ago.

But you can tell by the radio guys' voices that this is not a morbid curiosity thing. For some reason, they have a genuine interest in the well-being of a man they've probably only met in passing as a visiting coach. And they feel it's important that their listeners get updates on the life and death struggle of a college football coach 5,000 miles away.

Charisma and leadership are the hardest human attributes to quantify or define.

When they emanate from a truly good and influential person, it's usually best not to try to analyze it too much. Better to enjoy and be thankful for the benefits those with such gifts can bring to our lives.

But when a hero is nearly taken from a community before his time, you can't help but take stock.

Jones isn't universally popular only because he turned a football team around.

The love affair began when he put principle ahead of principal and took the University of Hawaii head coaching job instead of a much higher paying and prestigious one with the San Diego Chargers.

The former UH player and assistant knew Hawaii and Hawaii knew him. Unlike his predecessor, he gets it. He knows what makes the community here tick.

No one ever had to tell him to take his shoes off when he entered a potential recruit's house.

And it's all real.

There is a genuine confidence, optimism, and most importantly, goodness about him that grabbed the state.

And he's powerful enough to change a school's nickname.

Sure, the whole Rainbows-to-Warriors deal may have been a mistake, but even a great golfer like Jones deserves a mulligan once in awhile. Plus, he was doing it for his players.

AROUND here, we like our heroes humble and decent, but always willing to put up the good fight.

That is Jones.

Certain stations in life attract those with the glow.

Movie star. Astronaut. President.

Every now and then, one of our icons reminds us that they really are subject to the same tragedies that befall other humans.

Princess. Race car champion. Coach.

The mortal vulnerabilities of Diana, Dale Earnhardt and June Jones have been exposed via twisted metal and their own broken bodies.

Compared to the other two, it appears at this point that Jones -- and Hawaii -- is very fortunate.

With his condition being upgraded to guarded from critical yesterday, cautious optimism replaces despair.

Two others in Hawaii weren't so lucky in accidents only hours before Jones'.

Adam Hill and Jeanne Finer both died in one-car crashes.

As we wish the best for June Jones and his family (which, in a sense, is the entire state), we shouldn't forget Adam Hill, Jeanne Finer and those close to them. The radio station in Tampa doesn't care, but we do.

It's our way in Hawaii, to comfort our own -- even those we haven't literally met.

And you know that's what the coach would want.

Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii from 1977 to 1998,
moved to the the Gainesville Sun, then returned to
the Star-Bulletin in Jan. 2000.
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